Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Whole Lotta Slimming Going On

Courtesy of Rohan of Blessing of Kings, I found out about this little tidbit from MMO-Champion:

"Questing

  • The Jade Forest quests had a very clear story, but it also had a lot of side quests that could bog you down.
  • In Warlords of Draenor, your map will show you where to go to continue the main storyline, along with the locations of bonus objectives.
  • The bonus objectives no longer have any story text that go with them, just a list of objectives. Now when there is quest text, you will know that it is really worth reading."*
My first, flippant remark on Blessing of Kings' comment section was that Blizz is cutting corners rather than being innovative. And really, on the face of it that sure seems to be the case. But I wonder if this is just another nail in the coffin for all previous WoW content.

Consider: you buy WoD, you can get an instant L90 upgrade. You'll also be allowed to purchase additional L90 upgrades as well. Both of these, taken together, mean that you don't have to play any of the previous content at all to play WoW. 

Now, add the quest "slimming" to the mix, and you've got a recipe tailor made for people who say "the game only starts at max level". The only way it could get easier to get to max level would be to show up in different places, watch a cutscene, battle a boss, and move to the next location.**

I'm sure Blizzard is viewing this as a win-win situation. After all, consider the following positives:
  • Less time coming up with clever ways to describe how to kill ten rats.
  • Shuts up the complainers who say that leveling is a bore and takes time away from raiding.
  • Partially cuts the legs out from under the shadowy business of third party "we'll level your toon for you" routines.
  • Focuses the storyline so that authors don't have a myriad of new names to keep track of when writing novels.***
  • Makes the game seem more like Guild Wars 2, which has a similar mechanic, but on a reduced scale.
  • Allows Blizzard to put more time into Scenarios and Raids for important content, rather than spending time trying to explain side quests.
However, all I can think of is one thing:

Mankrik's Wife.

Side quests give a zone a flavor just as much as art and music. Were it not for the side quests, the "kill ten rats" quests, we'd never have come to know Mankrik's Wife, one of the most well known memes in the game. The original Green Hills of Stranglethorn quest --that maddening quest that would fill up your bag space-- gave pre-Cata Stranglethorn Vale as much flavor as all the ganking going on. The old questline in pre-Cata Thousand Needles to assist Magistrix Elosai in searching for a cure for the Blood Elves' magical addition would be gone, as would Apprentice Mirveda's attempts to cleanse the Dead Scar in Eversong Woods.

Life --even online MMO life-- is filled with little quirks and oddball things. Quest slimming would eliminate a large part of that, in favor of speed and efficiency. Which begs the question: is this a game, or a job?




*MMO-Champion is referencing this developer interview held at PAX East 2014 on YouTube.

**Or you could just buy a max level toon. Opening up Pandora's Box by allowing people to buy an expac's starting level means that it's not out of the realm of the possibility.

***Any expanded universe of novels --Dragonlance, Thieves' World, Forgotten Realms, Star Wars, or Star Trek, for starters-- has to deal with this problem. And, I've been told, it's not pretty.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Channeling Her Inner Ancient

Color me amused.

My oldest is sitting next to me, playing LOTRO on the main computer while I catch up with some work e-mail. She's excited because she discovered a fantastic new pastime on LOTRO.

Fishing.

No, really.

I keep expecting her to turn around and say "Dad, who's this other person fishing and asking me if I know Redbeard. She says she knows you from the blog..."


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

We've been Liebstered!

I thought I'd avoided the recent blogging meme to sweep the MMO blogs --the Liebster Awards-- but it seems PC was nominated just before April Fool's Day.

For the curious, the original rules can be found at liebsterawards.blogspot.com. Just so you know, the blog is in Spanish.*

The basic concept is to follow a set of rules, like so:

  1. Acknowledge the blog that nominated you and display the award badge
  2. Answer the eleven questions given to you by the blogger who nominated you
  3. Provide eleven miscellaneous facts about yourself
  4. Nominate eleven blogs of relatively small readership that you think deserve to be better-known
  5. Notify the bloggers that you’ve nominated them
  6. Compile eleven questions for your nominees to answer
(Shamelessly stolen from the blogger who nominated me.)


Okay, here we go...


1. Kamalia of Kamalia et alia nominated PC for this award. Thanks, Kamalia!

***

2. And now to answer the eleven questions posed by Kamalia.....

a) Tell me about a game or games — video or table or both! — that you are really enjoying right now.

Hmm...

I'm going to break these down into three categories:  MMO games, non-MMO video games, and tabletop games.

MMO games: WoW, SWTOR, Age of Conan, Star Trek Online.
Non-MMO video games: Civ IV and Rome: Total War. (Yeah, I know I should get Civ V but I still like IV a lot).
Tabletop Games: Fluxx (various incarnations, but Star Fluxx and Monty Python Fluxx are great), Settlers of Catan (an oldie but goodie), D&D 3.0, Zombie Dice, TransAmerica, Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures, Savage Worlds. Really, there are too many good games out there to limit yourself, but I had to try.

b) What classes, races, or roles do you find yourself most drawn to in RPGs, whether in D&D, a single-player video game, or an MMO?

For video games, I don't really have much of a preference. In the Baldur's Gate games, I played Fighters, but in MMOs I've been all over the place. I'll play just about any race, class, or sex, depending on what I find interesting.

In non-video games, I tend to play Clerics. I kind of got roped into playing one on my first college D&D campaign, and I've been playing one ever since. The current campaign I'm on --the D&D 3.0 campaign that's been ongoing since 2001-- I play a Human Cleric.

c) When you make your first character in a new game, do you try to make a character that is in some way an avatar of your RL self, or do you make someone entirely different?

Um, yeah, I do. Of course, finding a Blood Elf with a beard was a bit of an issue, but it is there. Barely.

Once I get that out of my system, I tend to veer off into other toons that look nothing like me.

d) Describe a typical session of playing your current favorite video/computer game.

Depends on the game, really. If I'm not at max level, I log in and do a bit of questing, and maybe get in an instance (with allowances made for time). If I'm at max level --like Azshandra is in WoW-- I'll queue for a battleground. Either way, my play time is fairly limited due to family/work/whatever, so I try to get the biggest bang for the buck.

e) What was the very first computer/video game you ever played? How old were you?

Hoo boy. I guess this dates myself, but I remember playing the Sears version of Pong back in the mid-70s as a little kid.

But the first adventure game (not Atari's Adventure, but a "real" one) I played was Colossal Cave circa 1980, on a friend's brother-in-law's** work network, that you had to pay on a per hour basis to access. We didn't even have a computer monitor to look at, the "computer" was a terminal with a scrolling paper printout, so you'd type in a command, hit RETURN, and wait for the teletype machine to spew out the results on the roll of paper. We got in BIG trouble playing the game one afternoon, as we were told we could play one hour and played for four.

f) Do you have more than one blog? If so, what is/are your other blog(s) about? (Blog names/links not necessary, and you don’t have to include personal/family/work-related blogs unless you really want to.)

I've got an LJ account that I rarely post to, but aside from PC that's about it.

g) Name three non-WoW/game-related websites that you visit frequently.

Non-WoW or game related?  Okay...

  • The Register -- It keeps me grounded in the IT world, and it's not afraid to tweak the big IT companies.
  • The Mary Sue -- A geeky website that also presents things from a feminist slant, which given that I have daughters, is a good thing.
  • The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County -- Just because. And that the local library system is really awesome. You really should check it out, even if you're not local to the area, because you just might find interesting things like this.

h) What was/is your favorite animal to see at the zoo?

The white bengal tigers. When the new habitat opened at the Cincinnati Zoo back in the late 70s, that was THE major attraction. Of course, the tigers kind of loafed around most of the day, but the concept of white tigers was awesome.

i) Cake or Pie? What is your favorite flavor of your preferred dessert?

Pie. If you'd have asked me about 30 years ago, I'd have said cake, but I love a good slice of apple pie.

j) What toppings do you like on a pizza? on an ice-cream sundae?

Pizza:  Pepperoni and pineapple. I only rarely get it because I get outvoted when we order pizza. You'd think that pineapple was anchovies or something...
Ice-cream sundae:  Good ol' chocolate.

k) What is your favorite writing instrument?

The computer. A long time ago I used to be able to write cursive, but after years of typing (and writing code) I've lost the ability to use cursive. Considering I was never that fast or that good on penmanship anyway, it's not that big of a loss.

Until I started using Wordstar and Wordperfect in college, I used to compose at the typewriter. It's not the fastest method of composition, but when I was finished I didn't have to revise. But nowadays, I'm grateful for the built-in editing capability of word processors.

***

3) Eleven miscellaneous facts about yourself? Well, in no particular order...

  • Unlike Westley or Inigo Montoya, I am left handed.
  • I once got the Evil Eye from legendary Temple University basketball coach, John Chaney. How he found me in the sea of 13000+ people when I was hollering at him "Siddown, Chaney!" after he protested a call by the refs, I'll never know. But he looked right at me with that look, the 'I'm gonna find you and make you wish you were never born' look.  "Oh my God," I breathed to my wife, "I'm SO dead."  (Thankfully, nothing happened, but that was only a few years removed from Chaney threatening to kill another coach during a press conference. He was, um, a bit of a hothead.)
  • Due to my tendency to be a font of weird facts, one of my high school nicknames was 'Cliff' after Cliff Claven from the television show Cheers.
  • I ran track in high school. You'd never guess at it now, given that my build resembles the Pillsbury Doughboy, but that's life.
  • I'm an introvert. (Okay, stop laughing.) No, seriously. I still remember the first time I went into Orgrimmar, following Soul as he was giving me the tour, but I was stunned by the crowd of players. I kept telling myself that nobody cares, nobody is looking at the noob, but it still was a shock. And, naturally, I was found by the guy looking for people to sign his guild charter, which didn't help my sense of feeling exposed. I eventually got over that, but when I'm out in the wild and I stumble on someone after having not seen anybody for a long time, I still feel the urge to port out and get away. And I still rarely talk online, even to the people I've friended on MMOs, because I'm sure they're busy and I'd be taking them away from that, yadda yadda yadda...
  • I have a dead-on impression of Kermit the Frog, but it hurts my throat to do it for any length of time.
  • I once organized a water gun fight in the Chemistry/Geology building at my university. My co-conspirator and I called it Urban Warfare in Wohlleben Hall, and it was back in the pre-9/11 environment when you could pull this sort of thing off without having Campus Security descend on you. My team won, mainly because one team member hid so well that nobody on the other team could find him. He then ambushed them when their guard was down, "killing" them via super soaker in one fell swoop.
  • I had a ringside seat at the "Satanic Panic" surrounding D&D and other RPGs back in the 80s. My own collection of D&D material was thrown out because it was considered to be Satanic, and I was ostracized by my fellow middle school gamers who feared that their parents would jump on the "D&D is Eeeevil" bandwagon just by associating with me. Needless to say, I have a pretty dim view of the people who promoted this sort of thing.
  • I've worn a beard since my senior year of college, when my girlfriend back then suggested that I would look good in one. It must have worked, because she married me a few years later.
  • It's been a decade since I last did it, but I've puttered around with homebrewing and home winemaking. My favorite beer I made was a Scotch Ale (partial mash, for those who know homebrewing), and my favorite wine was a Pinot Noir made from a kit.
  • I once had a DJ shift during college. While I'd like to say that I had a hand in programming my shift, I'd be lying. Still, it was fun to work the board, punch up the music via tape and vinyl (!), and chat over the air. The bonus was that almost nobody listened to us, so I didn't have any fear of performing.
***

4) Well, thankfully the blogs I can nominate range from five through twelve, so I'm going to try to hit that sweet spot.

The devil is in the details, naturally. You're supposed to nominate people who have a small following, such as 200 followers or less. I know that PC here fits this to a 't', but the first blog I thought of nominating --a certain blog by Rades-- obviously blows past the 200 follower limit.

Therefore, without much fanfare, here's my list of nominated blogs:

Hmm. Looks like there were more out there than I thought....

***

5) Let the bloggers all know that I nominated them, eh? Well, I'll ping those that don't comment in the next few days.

***

6) And drumroll please, these are the eleven questions the bloggers who take up this challenge need to answer:

  1. When did you first get into gaming? (It doesn't have to be computer gaming that you started with.)
  2. What MMO toon is your favorite of all time? Right now?
  3. What was the funniest thing that ever happened to you in an MMO?
  4. Just how many toons do you have, anyway?
  5. Raiding, questing, PvP, or RP: which do you like the most and why? The least?
  6. When you put the keyboard and/or gamepad down, what do you do for fun?
  7. What drove you to write a gaming blog?
  8. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter: which season do you like the best?
  9. What music do you listen to?
  10. What is the best dish/dessert you cook?
  11. What's the worst earworm you've ever had?




*Google Translate is my friend!

**The friend's sister was much older than us --I think about 12-14 years older-- and he was visiting her for the summer. I'm not as old as Ancient, but I'm definitely on the older side of the average MMO player.

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Blast from the Past

For those of you who --like me-- remember the Pink Pigtail Inn fondly, you were saddened when the old PPI domain name had disappeared.

However, Shintar of Going Commando and Priest With a Cause has just discovered that the Blogspot domain for PPI still exists.

For those who want a trip down memory lane, you can find PPI at http://pinkpigtailinn.blogspot.com/.

I still miss Larisa, tho.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Well, that explains a lot...

If Thrall is playing the center position,
who is the point guard?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Just What is Epic Enough, Anyway?

I've been listening to the Battle Bards podcast* while driving the kids to and from school, and we're up to Episode 21 now, which is about MMO music that moves you. Syp described it as "Oscar Bait", and Steff offered up "It gives you the Feels".

My oldest, sitting in the passenger seat next to me, commented that she calls that music "epic music", the stuff that she listens to while she does her homework (courtesy of YouTube playlists).

I'm not going to dispute those descriptions, although I believe I'd refer to what Steff was looking for was music that stirs deep emotions in the soul.

But what I found interesting was a comment by Syp about how the pieces in the SWTOR soundtrack --Alderaan: The Throne was Steff's example of the sort of music she was aiming for-- are overly long and can be tedious at times.


If you've played the game, the piece's first minute is heard when Alderaan loads (and periodically when travelling), but you might not have heard the rest without consciously seeking the soundtrack out.

But you know what that piece reminds me of? Ottorino Respighi's The Pines of Rome. Oh, not in a "it sounds like" moment, but in how the piece uses the music to paint a picture. If you're not familiar with Pines of Rome, you probably have heard the Fantasia 2000 version of it:


Yeah, I know. It's the "flying whales" piece.

But the point is, both pieces paint a picture. Pines of Rome creates a musical poem of the pines found in certain areas of Rome, such as the Pines of the Appian Way, and Alderaan: the Throne does the same thing for the planet of Alderaan, its apparent refinement and beauty, but underneath its struggles with civil war.

SWTOR's soundtrack is a bit unique among MMO soundtracks in that individual pieces for classes and planets are often in the 5-6 minute range, far longer than traditional MMO pieces. You can find individual MMO pieces that match the SWTOR ones, such as The Sindorei and Forged in Blood from WoW (BC and Wrath, respectively), but they are the exception rather than the rule. And still, the only pieces that play out in their 5+ minute entirety while adventuring in the game world --that I'm aware of, anyway-- are The Sindorei and Totems of the Grizzlemaw (Wrath again). Even SWTOR will chop up bits and pieces of their soundtrack for use in game, figuring that the KISS principle is the best one.**

I suppose that it only makes sense that when you're playing a game as visually stimulating and interactive as an MMO, creating overly complex themes would be lost on the average game player. Hell, I play WoW with the soundtrack off, mainly because you get tired of hearing the same 30 second piece when in a battleground.*** But the design intent of an in-game MMO soundtrack can be completely different than that found in the MP3/iTunes/CD version of the same.

While in-game, a soundtrack supplements the visual and interactive aspects of the MMO, but once the game exits, a soundtrack would have to stand on its own. Some games, such as Guild Wars 2, have a bunch of short pieces that have great sound and beauty, and they excel at meshing with the game itself. Alone, however, they feel too short. There's an epic feel present, but nothing sustained beyond a minute or two for all but a few pieces. But SWTOR took a different tactic, and took 5-6 minute tone poems and cherry-picked themes from each one to use in-game. This may not sit well with some, but others would welcome it.

For example, when I was playing pieces off of YouTube for this post, my wife looked up from her perusal of the internet and asked what that piece I was playing was.

"'Alderaan: The Throne', from the Star Wars: The Old Republic Soundtrack," I replied. The piece was well into its third minute.

"I like it," she said.

I made a mental note of that, because the other piece that I've played of MMO soundtracks lately that she stopped me and actually asked about it was Forged in Blood. The piano sweeps of Forged in Blood give that piece a distinct modern feel, and that attracted her attention.

***

Does this mean that I prefer one MMO soundtrack methodology over another? Not really, but it does mean that composers and game houses are tinkering, trying things out, and stretching what it means to be an MMO soundtrack. There are parts of the SWTOR soundtrack that I hear and think that the composer was aiming for the wider classical audience, rather than just the MMO gamer crowd. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, because I as a gamer (and movie soundtrack buff) am increasingly tired of hearing from certain crowds how second rate the video game/movie compositions are.

But that's a topic for another post.




*See the sidebar for the link. If you like MMO music, give them a try. You know the principals involved: Syl from MMO Gypsy, Syp from Biobreak and Massively, and Steff from MMO Gamer Chick.

**KISS = Keep It Simple, Stupid.  Come on, you really thought I was talking about these guys?

***That doesn't mean I play WoW without music, because there's often something running in the background. I personally will stream the Live365 channel Tears of Glory when playing WoW for the variety. Plus, I'm amused when I'm in Alterac Valley and suddenly the WoW cities' themes comes on.


EtA: Sorry, Shin.  I can blame that it was almost midnight when I wrote that. Corrected.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hope you Don't Mind Waiting....

...but the WoW Facebook feed mentioned --as part of the "pre-order and get an instant L90" campaign-- that Warlords of Draenor launches this Fall.

Not Spring.

Not Summer.

Fall.

I suspected as much, given that a new Arena season just started, but this confirms it.

Commence hand wringing in three... two... one...